For the second consecutive year, CBS seized upon the opportunity to view the White House Christmas decorations to ambush First Lady Laura Bush with questions about Iraq. However, when CBS interviewed first lady and Senator-elect Hillary Clinton in 2000, Jane Clayson ignored policy questions and instead highlighted Mrs. Clinton’s accomplishments and inquired about Mrs. Clinton’s favorite Christmas traditions.
On Thursday’s "Early Show," co-host Hannah Storm portrayed Iraq as hopeless and was dismayed that U.S. troops are not being withdrawn:
"And can you offer them words of comfort and hope as I think many of them were hoping that perhaps with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group that maybe we would begin a gradual pullout of troops but yet, once again we hear today that our troops will be there indefinitely."
Mrs. Bush dismissed Storm’s assertion, and retorted that the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, the "blue ribbon commission" led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, have not yet been submitted, and she noted that the group’s report is just one piece of information on which the president will rely:
"Well, we don't have the recommendations from the Iraq Study Group. Those have not been submitted to the president, we don't really know what's in those, yet. But the president will weigh what comes in those recommendations, along with the recommendations of his generals, and the recommendations of the government of Iraq, the duly elected government of Iraq, I might add. Over 70% of Iraqis turned out to vote. That's more than Americans turned out to vote. And I think it's very, very important that we do whatever we can to help Iraq build a stable government there. It will make a huge difference in the Middle East and in this very volatile part of the world. So I'm glad that we're going to stand with the Iraqis. I hope that this meeting that the president had with Maliki, which seemed to be a very substantive meeting, will be the first of many discussions of ways we can work together to make sure the violence is reduced."
This exchange came exactly one year after CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante, again while viewing the White House Christmas decorations, asserted President Bush had no plan and was the subject of much criticism:
"Let me ask you this, your husband today is giving a major speech about Iraq to prove that he has a plan, because he has been so criticized by many people because the war keeps dragging on, and of course that means there are troops away for Christmas, first of all does it bother you when he's criticized the way he has been?"
Plante’s inquiry mirrored the treatment Mrs. Bush received from ABC’s Jessica Yellin, as reported here on NewsBusters, last year. Compare these questions to some of the one’s then Senator-elect Hillary Clinton received in 2000:
"It's nice to be there. You've been very busy lately, obviously--Senator-elect today, first lady and--and an author. How do you keep it all straight, Mrs. Clinton?"
Clayson also inquired about how the Clinton’s celebrate Christmas:
It is fair to ask, which Storm did, what the first lady’s thoughts are for members of the armed services deployed overseas and their families. But if CBS wants to ask a first lady about policy, why would they pick on Laura Bush and give Hillary Clinton a pass? After all, Laura Bush is not involved in shaping policy, where as Hillary Clinton was not only a Senator-elect, but was part of an administration that advertised two Clinton’s for the price of one.